Thursday, February 17, 2005

High-pointing in Adel Mountains

Wayne Phillips enjoys the warm, open winter weather on this Sieben peak climb in the Adel Mountains near Cascade. 
You’ve got to watch out for those high-pointers.
My friend, H. Wayne Phillips, is into climbing the highest peak in each of the state’s mountain ranges and since he’s my Wednesday climbing partner, I guess I’m roped into some of them.
For years I’ve been driving by the Adel Mountain range south and east of Cascade. They are a volcanic adjunct to the Big Belt Mountains. Some maps make no differentiation between the Adels and the Belts, but they are truly different. The rock in the Belts is more limestone/sedimentary in nature. The Adels are the center of old volcanic activity and are the cause of the buttes that lie at their flanks.
These are low, dark, tree covered mountains. Where the rock is exposed it is that unmistakable igneous variety. You see it best when you drive through the Missouri River Canyon between Great Falls and Wolf Creek. It’s the Adels you are looking at when you stop at the overlook near the Mountain Palace just outside Hardy Creek. If you’ve floated the Dearborn down to the Missouri, you know the rock.
Anyway, Wayne had his heart set on Sieben Peak, elevation 7,093 feet, which sits on a BLM section, but is inaccessible unless you get landowner permission.
The peak is dominant, with most major drainages in the heart of this mountain range rising from it: Stickney, Spring, Sheep, and Hound creeks.
It is named for the homesteader who settled this land and passed it down through the generations.  His family still owns and ranches this country.
The drive to the starting point is nearly as spectacular: through the bucolic ranch country outside Cascade. The grass is lush and gorgeous and the ranches historic, like the Dana ranch, and the Sieben Livestock Company.
We began up a drainage of Spring Creek, parked in an area beneath some selective logging, accessed a ridge and climbed about 1,600 feet to the unimpressive grassy top, where we found an old Forest Service marker.
The ridge was very straightforward, just a walk-up.
The day was incredibly pretty. The sky was a deep blue, not a cloud in the sky and a sun that cast odd shadows because of its winter tilt.
The views make the trip worthwhile.
In the middle of and above the rest of the Adels, Sieben allows you to look down on the rugged Sawteeth rock outcroppings to the north in this range, as well as other rock formations that thrust upward.
Off in the distance, the Rocky Mountain Front made an impressive snow-capped show. Most prominent was Red Mountain at over 9,400 feet in the Scapegoat. We could see as far north as Walling Reef.  To the east and south we could see the Big and Little Belts and Highwoods, and I could make out the outline of the distant Bearspaw Mountains.
Because of the cold, stiff wind, we didn’t linger on the top, but tried to climb all the highest rocks we could see on this 7,000-foot ridge.
Then, it was down and out by roughly the same route we went up.
We were surprised that we didn’t see any elk, because there were plenty of signs of the animal.  We saw many deer and antelope in the thick grass on the mountains’ flanks as we came and went.
Wayne, a retired forester and botanist, noted the good health of the grass on the ranches surrounding these mountains.
He seemed delighted with the day and the climb, remarking about this gem we had found so close to Great Falls.
A gem indeed!

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